HOPKINTON-TO-BOSTON, October 11 — Through a century and a quarter of marathon racing, Boston has endured annual significant milestones and profound changes on the world stage as the oldest continuously run 26-miler. The Pandemic certainly brought additional changes to the forefront.
With smaller fields (18,000 plus) and spectators adhering to pandemic protocols, this year’s edition did not disappoint with its competitive spirit and quality runners.
There was certainly an unorthodox start as Californian CJ Albertson jetted out to an early lead over the men’s field. He left everyone in his wake, so much so that at halfway — reached in 1:04:08 — he commanded a 2:13 lead over the pack, which included fellow American Colin Bennie and Kenyan Benson Kipruto.
Albertson — 7th in the ’20 OT — is certainly no stranger to the distance world. By 30K, with the Newton Hills well underway, the pack of a dozen-plus finally put down the hammer and was able to reel in the surprise early leader. It wasn’t so much that he had the early lead but more so how long he was able to stave off the pursuers.
The big break happened just after 40K when Kipruto decided to test himself on the downhills through Brookline. He had opened up a 37-second lead during the preceding 5K and for the most part looked very comfortable in the race to the finish. His 2:09:51 was the second-fastest of his career behind his PR 2:05:13. His margin of victory was 46 seconds over the Ethiopian duo of Lemi Berhanu (2:10:37) and Jemal Yimer (2:10:38).
Kipruto’s previous marathon victories included Prague this past May and Toronto in ’18.
The 30-year-old Kipruto — wanting to make amends for his disappointing finish here in ’19 — turned on the jets at the 35K mark. “After finishing in 10th place here a couple of years ago, today I decided to push at 35K to see if today was my day,” he said. “And it was.”
His improvement on the Boston course over 2019 was pretty much inner driven. “First of all, I improved my training,” he explained. “Second, in 2019, I developed a blister on my feet, so today was OK. In 2019 I pushed so much. So, this time I trained well.” The emphasis on downhill training was not lost on Kipruto, who said, “I emphasized downhill running because I knew the course much better than before.”
He also alluded to the fact you can never get too complacent in such circumstances. His decisive move between 35 and 40K was clocked in 14:06 to give himself some breathing room. “When I pushed forward, I knew some guys were coming to close the gap, so I was trying to maintain that high pace to see who could sustain it,” he acknowledged.
Runnerup Berhanu, the ’16 Boston champion, was pleased with his placing overall, saying, “Even though I won a few years ago, I’m still happy to have come in 2nd place today, said Berhanu.
The top American finisher has strong roots in the Bay State as Collin Bennie, who attended Wachusett Regional High and is a Princeton, Mass, native, finished 7th in the competitive field, clocking in at 2:11:26. This was Bennie’s third marathon and his first Boston effort.
“A thrill” said Bennie, a two-time cross country All-America at Syracuse. “I couldn’t imagine a better first Boston. It turned out to be a great day.” Generally, Bennie had no complaints about the weather on this nearly perfect fall-like morning. “A little bit windy, but honestly, perfect running weather,” said Bennie. “Coming from Virginia it was a nice break from the summer down there. It was just awesome. I’m just thrilled to soak it in at this point,” he said. Can you blame him?
Albertson, the leader through much of the race, hung on to finish 10th on his birthday. “My wife loves birthdays, but she’s back at home because we’re having a baby in three weeks,” said the expectant father.
So, what was with the solo jaunt for the first 20M? “For the first 20M I thought it was a training run,” said Albertson. “I was by myself and got some people to cheer for me. The most fun race I’ve ever ran. Definitely didn’t expect that to happen. It was fun. I was in the lead and when the guys came, I was like, ‘All right now, it’s time to race.’”
Albertson was most definitely pleased with his first Boston. “For 2 hours, 11 minutes I got to be in an environment with a bunch of people who were excited about running and there’s not much greater than that,” he exclaimed.
1. Benson Kipruto (Ken) 2:09:51
2. Lemi Berhanu (Eth) 2:10:37
3. Jemal Yimer (Eth) 2:10:38
4. Tsedat Ayana (Eth) 2:10:47
5. Leonard Barsoton (Ken) 2:11:11
6. Bayelign Teshager (Eth) 2:11:16
7. Colin Bennie (USA) 2:11:26
8. Dejene Debela (Eth) 2:11:38
9. Wilson Chebet (Ken) 2:11:40
10. CJ Albertson (US) 2:11:44